Spice jars or other appropriate storage have an important role to play in your kitchen. This is because the colour, aroma and taste of herbs and spices can degrade over time. In order to maintain them at optimum quality they should be kept in a cool, dry place to avoid exposure to heat, moisture, oxygen and bright lights such as direct sunlight.
Advice for storing spices
It may be difficult to organise in a smaller kitchen but herbs and spices should not be kept close to ovens, hobs, dishwashers or refrigerators which can expose them to steam or heat. While will affect the flavour, moisture can cause clumps or cakiness to ground products.
For the same reason, containers must be airtight, so glass spice jars with tight screw lids will protect against moisture and preserve the oils that impart the rich aromas and flavours of the spices. Lids should always be tightly closed.
Storing spices by type
Different types of herbs and spices have different shelf lives and some therefore require different storage conditions. Spices and herbs in their whole form have a longer storage life than those which have been ground. Spices such as allspice or nutmeg have a protective outer shell that stops them being exposed to oxygen and maintaining freshness and so can last up to three years if properly stored. Ground spices tend to pass their best after about a year.
Consider storing spices with a red hue in the refrigerator – things like cayenne pepper, chilli powder and paprika – to avoid losing colour and flavour, particularly in hotter weather. Oil rich seeds such as sesame or poppy could also benefit from refrigeration or even freezing so that they don’t go rancid. However make sure they are well sealed as the interior of a refrigerator is a humid environment.
Using your spices
Spices can’t be taken away once added. You can always add more but you can’t ‘unspice’, so add them a little at a time and build up the flavour until you are happy. The point of herbs and spices is to compliment the flavour of a dish rather than overpower it.
Remember that dried or ground herbs and spices have a more concentrated flavour than fresh. Dishes that have a long cooking time such as those made in a slow cooker should not have herbs or spices added more than hour before the serving time so that the herbs maintain a fresh taste. Seasoned too early, the flavour of spices could intensify and be overpowering.